MU researchers receive funding for science teaching program

Aug 27, 2013

According to an article in the journal Science, 60 percent of teachers are “cautious” when teaching science. But the National Science Foundation has recently approved a grant that will help Missouri teachers build confidence on teaching the subject.

University of Missouri researchers received $2.6 million to fund the Quality Elementary Science Teaching or QuEST. Kindergarten through sixth grade teachers will attend a two-week long workshop where they learn skills for teaching science in the classroom and then practice these techniques on students. The program already existed but researcher Deborah Hanuscin said the grant money will also go toward conducting an in-depth study on if this program is truly working or not.

"I think its one thing to say, ‘oh, look we have this great workshop, teachers love it,'" she said. "They’ll skip their family vacations to come because they feel like they benefit so much from it. But that’s antidotal evidence at this point. And we don’t really have anything to compare it to."

The previous grant was for $750,000 over five years. The new grant lasts for three years. The program now requires QuEST to double its staff and include researchers to gather the data.

Columbia Public Schools Spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said teachers have been sent to the QuEST program in previous years and plans to do so again.

"Well it’s just a good opportunity for teachers to have exposure to new ways of teaching science to learn new methods within the science field," she said. "Science is one of those things that is constantly changing so it is of benefit for our teachers to be able to participate in a continual professional development program like this."

After three years of workshops and collecting data the QuEST program will look at its findings and hope to design a method for other states to use as well. But Hanuscin plans to keep working and researching this topic long after the three years are up.